Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"Cruising" through Mayan Ruins

By Caleb Berumez

Setting Out

On the morning of December 5th, 2010, fifty-five individuals from all over the United States left a hotel in Miami and headed down to the dock where they boarded a ship bound for the Yucatan Peninsula.  The first Jackson Hole Bible College Ancient Man Cruise was underway.

Pastor Don Landis of Community Bible Church opened our first full day of sailing with a morning chapel service.  It was quickly decided that, while beautiful, the Skylight Chapel on the highest deck amplified the motion of the ship.  The conference room we had been provided with (near the center of the ship) was set as our future meeting room for subsequent chapels.

Later that morning and in the afternoon, Pastor Don and Mike McCurdy gave lectures on the research that was being compiled by the Ancient Man Project.
The concepts of "Out of place artifacts" (Ooparts) and archaeological similarities between cultures on all continents (specifically mounds and pyramids) were presented in detail. The presentations prepared us to better interpret the ancient sites we were soon to see. The remainder of the day was spent familiarizing ourselves with the ship until evening, when we convened as a group for supper in one of the ship's dining rooms.

Chacchoben Mayan Ruins - Costa Maya, Mexico (December 7th)

The morning of our first excursion began with a chapel service given by Lance Eisele, followed up with a short briefing on the plans for that day.  After disembarking at Costa Maya, we took a bus to the ruins of Chacchoben (which translates to "the place of red corn").  No historical name for the site has been discovered, which resulted in the ruins being named after a village only a few miles away.

A guide escorted our group on a tour of the ruins, pointing out exceptional features and relating the history and restoration of the site.  While there is evidence that there were settlements in the area of the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins for several hundred years before Christ, the ruins seen today were built around 300 AD.  For many in the group, this was the first example of ancient architecture we had experienced first hand.  The distinct pyramid shape of the temples, so similar to the familiar Egyptian structures, proved to be a topic of much discussion. We were even able to ascend a portion of one of the temples.

Altun Ha - Belize City, Belize (December 8th)

Our second excursion presented a two-part tour by bus and by river, necessitating the division of the group. By river, we were treated to a spectacular view of the local wildlife as well as being given a brief history of Belize.  The bus trip was less interactive, but arguably more exciting - as the bus travelled single lane roads for much of the trip, passing other buses frequently and slowing down rarely.  The two groups met for lunch, swapped stories from the morning, and switched transportation.

While in Belize, we had the opportunity to tour Altun Ha.  The population of this ancient city has been estimated at about 3,000 individuals - with several thousands more living outside the city nearby.  Construction of the initial building has been dated to 200 BC, with the most impressive structure, the Temple of the Masonry Altars, having an initial construction date of around 550 BC.  From the top of that temple (reached via careful traverse up a steep stair-stepped path), an amazing view of the reconstructed ruins may be obtained.

Tulum Ruins - Cozumel, Mexico (December 9th)

Perhaps the most astonishing excursion of our trip, Tulum was our last sightseeing destination on the cruise.  Built on a cliff at the edge of the Caribbean Sea, this city was occupied into the 16th century.  The name "Tulum" is translated as "wall", in reference to the 3-5 meter high wall that surrounds the city.

The entire site is built with an East/West orientation, a fact that is reflected in the former name of the site - Zama, which means "dawn".  The Temple of Frescoes, now closed to the public, was used to track the movements of the sun.  In addition to its capacity as an observatory, it houses the artwork for which it was named.  While unable to enter, we could see some of the remaining paintings through the doorways on the two-storied structure.

One recurring artistic feature of Tulum is the "diving god" (also known as the "descending god"), shown on several structures as an upside down figure.  Our guide spoke about an event that happens at the Spring Equinox, where the sun shines through a small opening at the back of the structure known as the Temple of the Diving God.  He produced a photo of the event and explained how the structure was lined up to allow the sunlight to pass through the opening and directly out of the main door. This type of perfect solstice/equinox alignment has been discovered at many sites around the world.

After spending time examining the ruins and taking a group photo, we took advantage of the nearby beach to relax before making our way back to the ship.

Sailing Home

The late Dr. David Reid led the chapel on the morning of December 10th.  Our schedule had initially placed us at George Town, Grand Cayman for the day.  However, due to rough waves that stop had to be passed over.  On the last full day of sailing, Pastor Don and Dr. Lawson Schroeder gave more lectures on Ancient Man, wrapping up the amazing opportunity we had bee given to study history from God's perspective.

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